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Watch Designer's Thoughts: The Open Heart

Watch Designer's Thoughts: The Open Heart

One of the most polarizing complications of a watch is the open heart. But to say it's a complication is kind of underwhelming. After all, I would consider a feature as a complication only if it did something utilitarian (date, GMT, power reserve) or one that is horologically impressive (minute repeater, tourbillion).

The issue. But an open heart is just that -- it exposes what's already in there with not much fan fare. No utility, no horological feat, just standard metal parts made visible by simply cutting open a plate. It's just relatively unimpressive.

To most people, it's a thing of marvel. I mean look at it, it has a jewel in the middle and all. It must be something right? And if you stretch your imagination, the pallet fork that rocks back and forth looks like a two-pronged wizard's staff.

But to the snobbish few (I am one to some extent), it's more of a cheap trick to make it more magnificent than it really is. Like ricing you car. Or increasing your credit card limit. More often than not, it's looked at as a poor man's tourbillion.

The realization. Watches that do make use of open heart movements either simply put a hole in the dial or mount a grill on top of it which does make it tolerable. Others just decorate around the hole which is easy if there are complications beside it like the Miyota cal.82S7. I think the reason it's hard to make such a thing work visually is because the finish of the open heart contrasts ungracefully with the dial: small metal parts versus the pantone colors. Those metal parts aren't even polished to a level like with the hands or the case.

This is somehow not an issue with skeleton watches because at least in those, the idea is to expose the whole movement. For now however, we're not going to debate further if skeleton watches are any better as it does suffer the same stereotyped image as an open heart.

The solution. If I was to design a watch with an open heart, what choices should I take to make it more visually appealing? As mentioned previously, putting a grill on top makes it tolerable but I'd like to do it differently. So my idea is to cover the open heart that is not simply cutting a hole on top yet expose it enough so those who are curious can still look at it beating away.

Find out more how I tackled this idea in a future blog entry.

All images pulled from Miyota website.

News Update: Nereid II and Auriga

News Update: Nereid II and Auriga

Hi all, just an update on our next models Nereid II and Auriga. We've experienced delays getting the prototypes done since we needed to iron out some kinks. They are both actually 90% done so a little bit more and we can have a full reveal on what both them look like.

Expect to see them sometime March 2018. Once done, we'll be putting more updates more consistently and will be creating articles for each variation along with lots of pictures.

Stay tuned!

Bauhaus in Horology: What You Don't Know

Bauhaus in Horology: What You Don't Know

Minimalism is not Bauhaus. One of the things I see people do is think that the two are a synonym of each other. My answer to that is it's not ... but it's not your fault. Bauhaus was originally for a purpose and not just as an art form unlike minimalism is. In fact, art is only a subset of its many disciplines. There is also an element to consider however, which can muddle the distinction between the two further which is intent. That is, if the designer or creator who did the work take it to themselves that their influence is Bauhaus, then it is so.

Now going back to the watches of today. If it's said to be either, it's not necessarily of an informed awareness but because of marketing. With the influx of minimalist watches from hundreds of brands, the use of both words to market these watches made it catchy but confusing. So to help with distinguishing the two, it would be good to mention about important points in history.

Let's talk about Max. Max Bill (1908-1994) was a Swiss architect and industrial designer, among other things, who studied in the Bauhaus school of Dessau. His work was so influential that it still finds its way in modern items and not just in clocks and watches. And that's only a small part of what he's contributed to contemporary design.

To most of us in horology however, he's known to have done work for Junghans. Why did I mention him? It's because he single-handedly defined what is to be Bauhaus in horology that's different from what Nomos did.

Now that we've put a face and a name to a famous watch design. Let's go to the source of his discipline.

A clock designed by Max Bill for Junghans. The style of the hour numerals is based from Herbert Bayer's design called the Universal typeface

Bauhaus is a complete study. You see, as Max Bill himself knows it, Bauhaus is not just about neat lines and geometric shapes (Art Deco is kind of like that). It was created to industrialize art and design, and covered many aspects of building as Walter Gropius, the found of the school, envisioned it to be. What's not necessary like embellishments and decorative aspects are dropped in favor of ease in production. As you can see below, Bauhaus covers textiles, architecture, and engineering. The school in Dessau actually involves theatre and music in its departments as well.

In design, minimalism is a lack of details while Bauhaus is the implementation only of necessary details

The wondeful world of Alain Silberstein. Now let me introduce you to a guy named Alain Silberstein. If you think Bauhaus looks boring, clinical, and predictable, then check out what Alain did for his own line of watches. Remember when I said something about intent and art form? Mr. Silberstein did exactly just that and he's a watchmaker that makes timepieces categorized as haute horlogerie.

The rich colors and shapes that identify his works doesn't look like what Max Bill has done yet both fall under the same art movement.

Alain Silberstein's use of primary colors and shapes shouldn't be confused with the Memphis Group either. The latter, which is postmodern group of individuals that started in 1981, was involved in design and architecture but was never involved in horology. Not to mention Mr. Silberstein was never their member in the first place and as mentioned, are of differing area of interest.

  An original Bauhaus cover. You can see how it applies to Alain Silberstein's works 

Nomos and Stowa had the same design influence. If you've seen both the Nomos Tangomat and the Stowa Antea, you would think one is a copy of the other. Historically, Stowa has already existed decades before Nomos had so one can assert that Nomos copied what Stowa has already done before. In fact, it was A. Lange & Söhne who created the first variant of the dial.

For now, these are the most significant things I have gleaned on Bauhaus in the horological world so far. Hopefully these tidbits of information would aid the curious the next time they look at a watch. It may look simple and clean, but there are a lot of things behind it that made it such a desirable piece to own today.

Thanks for reading and see you in the next article!